Independence Community College (Independence, Ka.) head coach, Jason Brown, on Netflix documentary ‘Last Chance U,’ repeatedly talked about how the plays that a coach calls in football doesn’t matter. He would always say that, regardless the play called, players who would run through brick walls for their coach will succeed any time they’re the best player on the field. I call bullshit on Coach Brown after watching Arizona lay an egg against BYU week 1.
Arizona had the better football players. There’s no denying that Khalil Tate, JJ Taylor, Colin Schooler and co. weren’t better individual players than BYU. Tate was 14/1 to win the Heisman when odds opened in May. And there’s no denying that those players wouldn’t run through a wall for Kevin Sumlin.
Arizona was just outcoached.
Players and coaches talked all week about how big BYU is in the trenches. Wide receiver Cedric Peterson remarked that, “The Mormons are little bit older than most teams we play against, but the main thing is their D-line. They’ve got a few bigger bodies up there that we haven’t really seen, but I think we can handle them.”
But what did Arizona do? They ran the ball between the tackles. It worked for 129 yards and just two touchdowns on 35 attempts. That’s an average of 3.7 yards per rush. That’s down from 4.6 yards per rush from last year.
But it was the quarterback play that was truly egregious. To have a Heisman candidate in Tate and then bring in famed ‘quarterback guru’ Noel Mazzone as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, for Khalil Tate to regress? In no way should that happen.
Tate completed just 17/34 for a shade less than 200 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Tate’s longest complete pass was 33 yards to Shawn Poindexter in the second quarter.
He was even worse on the ground, too. He only ran for 14 yards on eight carries. His longest run was for 10 yards. He averaged ten yards a game last season.
BYU stifled Tate because Mazzone allowed them to. Mazzone allowed the Cougars to shut down Tate because of three things: he couldn’t get the running backs going, he rarely got Tate out from between the tackles, and couldn’t take BYU out of their game plan.
Mazzone tried several different plays between the tackles, but never established his backs as a reliable option to gain at least a chunk of yards per play. The dominance of BYU’s defensive line allowed the linebackers to drop into coverage, which obviously hurt Tate’s passing lanes.
Mazzone also never got Tate outside of the box. Part of that was because, while BYU didn’t put Tate under a ton of pressure, they maintained the structure of the pocket, containing him. Tate thrived last year when the pocket collapsed and he had to scramble. That’s when Tate’s biggest runs happened last season. By containing Tate, both BYU and Mazzone clipped Tate’s wings.
Conversely, BYU at all times looked comfortable on the field. The Cougars found their rhythm and were in control at all times. Arizona, comparatively, had no way of stopping them. There could’ve been a third and long situation for the Cougars, but everyone in the stadium knew that BYU was going to be able to convert. There was never a time when Arizona garnered any feelings like that in any phase of the game. BYU’s defense was too comfortable all game, and it hurt Arizona.
The Wildcats need hope for a better game plan against Houston next week, because the ‘Cats may not be the better players on the field when that rolls around.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.